The role of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in promoting a structured dialogue on industrial change in the EU
The European Economic and Social Committee's Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) combines over 50 years of experience with consultative dialogue gained from the European Coal and Steel Community's Consultative Committee with a wide-ranging composition and remit to produce a body unique to the European institutions. It is a new kind of model for discussion/dialogue of policy issues between different actors in the field of industrial change.
The CCMI looks at industrial change issues across a wide spectrum of sectors. As such, it offers added value to the work of the EESC as a whole. It is of particular value to those new Member States currently undergoing the process of industrial change and its new composition, created at the end of 2004, reflects this fact in the form of significant representation from these countries.
The CCMI is more than just a repository of lessons learnt in the past. In keeping with the subjects it treats, the role of the CCMI is to look to the future. The emphasis is on anticipation, pre-emption and analysis so as to ensure positive common approaches to the management of industrial change from an economic, social, territorial and environmental point of view. The CCMI promotes coordination and coherence of Community action in relation to the main industrial changes in the context of the enlarged EU and ensures balance between the need for socially acceptable change and the retention of a competitive edge for EU industry.
In view of the expiry of the ECSC Treaty on 23 July 2002, the Industry Council of 18 May 2002 asked the European Commission to submit its ideas on the future of structured dialogue in the areas covered by this Treaty.
In its Communication of 27 September 2000 (COM(2000) 588 final), drawn up in close consultation with the EESC, the Commission proposed the creation of a specific structure within the Committee that would not only permit the retention of valuable expertise built up during the ECSC years and the continuation of structured dialogue in the areas of coal and steel, but would be expanded gradually, ultimately to cover all issues relating to industrial change in an enlarged EU.
With regard to the content of this major extension of the EESC's consultative role, the Commission stresses its "determination to examine the development of ECSC structured dialogue in a firmly future-based perspective". The ECSC's unique "experience - notably in the fields of social consensus, industrial restructuring and research - will enhance the EESC's ability to play an active role in modernising the European economy and making it more competitive".
The other European institutions supported these proposals and provided the EESC with the resources needed to run this new body, which was set up on 24 October 2002 by the Committee's Plenary Assembly.
The CCMI is made up of 48 EESC members and 48 external delegates, drawing on a wide range of knowledge and experience gained in a variety of socio-occupational organisations in various sectors affected by the modernisation of the economy. The Chairman of the CCMI is a member of the EESC and the Co-Chairman is a delegate. The delegate body is divided into three categories (employers, employees, various interests), similar to the structure of the three EESC groups. Following the enlargement to 27 Member States and given the particularly appropriate nature of the CCMI’s expertise to the new Member States, the new CCMI composition includes a high proportion of members and delegates from these countries.
The creation of the CCMI opened up new avenues. The EESC is now able to draw up opinions as part of a direct structured dialogue between its members and representatives of the sectors and interest groups affected by industrial change. This permits the examination of problems in all their complexity – from an economic and social angle, in relation to environmental protection or sustainable development. They are dealt with as part of the normal EU decision-making process by means of referrals from the institutions (possibly requests for exploratory opinions) or own-initiative opinions, which the Committee believes are necessary to influence developments in the EU.
Remit and means of setting out its views
The CCMI's remit:
continues to cover those areas of the coal and steel industries and their production and consumption chains in which the Community is active;
has been progressively extended to the handling of industrial change in other sectors of activity and its repercussions on employment, social and structural policy measures, aid and competition policy, research and technological development, environmental and sustainable development policy, energy policy, trade policy;
includes a particular emphasis on the challenges posed by industrial change in the new Member States.
The CCMI can express its views through mandatory opinions under the terms of the Treaty, optional and exploratory opinions at the request of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, as well as own-initiative opinions, information reports and the holding of conferences and hearings.
It maintains a close working relationship with the other EU institutions and agencies and with organisations across the whole range of issues linked to industrial change.